Neonatal Brain Protection

Preterm babies are at high risk of long-term neurodevelopmental impairment. The Neonatal Brain Protection group study the mechanisms of newborn brain injury with the goal of developing cot-side monitoring solutions and new treatments to protect the newborn brain.


In Australia, more than 9000 preterm babies are born each year, requiring admission into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  While NICU care has improved survival, more than 95 per cent of preterm babies more than 32 weeks survive, unfortunately about half of surviving infants born under 28 weeks grow up with significant neurodevelopmental impairment including motor, cognitive, hearing, and visual deficits. Even infants born moderately or late preterm, 32-36 weeks, are twice as likely to develop neurodevelopmental disability.

The Neonatal Brain Protection group investigates the mechanisms of brain injury in preterm babies. The team’s projects aim to develop improvements to cot-side monitoring, early detection of brain injury, neuroprotective strategies, and establishment of long-term follow-up studies.

The ultimate goal of their research is to improve the life-long neurodevelopment of our smallest, most vulnerable newborns, by monitoring and optimising brain care in preterm babies to prevent brain injury. 

“Preterm babies are at high risk of neurodevelopmental deficits. Research is vital to inform the underlying causes of preterm brain injury. This knowledge can lead to early detection, better preventive strategies and interventions, and outcome prediction which is vital for parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to provide appropriate support,” Associate Professor Flora Wong, Neonatal Brain Protection Group Research Group Head.

Areas of focus

  • Identifying the changes in brain-blood flow and oxygen levels in preterm brain Injury
  • Early detection of brain Injury using predictive monitoring and machine learning.
  • Follow-up studies of brain function in preterm babies for long-term outcome prediction.

Major collaborators

Assoc Professor David Walker RMIT University Melbourne
Professor Rosemary Horne Monash University Melbourne
Assoc Professor Mary Tolcos RMIT University Melbourne
Professor Rod Hunt Monash University Melbourne
Dr Robin Laycock RMIT University Melbourne
Professor Arvind Sehgal Monash Health Melbourne
Professor Graeme Polglase The Ritchie Centre, The Hudson Institute Melbourne



Our research focus

Research Group